Some people in the US judge the success of their local school by its performance on standardized tests, innovation by the incorporation of sophisticated electronic devices, and curriculum by the latest clever acronym.
Schools seek to meet high standards, which actually consign a large percentage of schools, teachers, and students to the category of “failing.” Even “successful” schools look more like efficient factories to produce high scores on the way to preparation for college and career. The school is separated from community life, and often from music, art, and play. Compliance and conformity often win out over creativity and critical thinking.
The vision of early 20th century progressives of the school as the social center of the community, students as critical, socially-engaged thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society, and learning as a means to nurture good and purpose-filled lives, is often lost.
Education in Nepal faces even more problems. For some the issue is whether they have a school at all or a teacher. Books, computers, and electricity are often lacking. Even private schools are under-resourced by US standards. Yet in my short time here I’ve seen numerous examples of creative approaches to teaching and learning that build on that progressive vision, and resist the factory model.
In my next few posts I’ll share some of these Nepali examples. None are perfect (as if that were a sensible goal), and none fully challenge today’s dominant education paradigm. However, they do show how vision, dialogue, and experimentalism can make progress, even when operating within enormous constraints.
[cross-posted on Progressive Educators Network Nepal]